4 years ago, I had just been away from "home" for a year, having just graduated with my Digital Media degree, ready to go out and cause some riots -- but I had no employable skills, no professional network, and very little job experience. Moving away from my comfort zone was difficult, and I decided to move back within 50 miles of where I grew up.
I had been having a stellar year in the frozen midwest, and Detroit's creative community was very welcoming and bustling. I loved Ann Arbor and was making good connections, but I didn't see the benefits of that locality over... any other.
So I came back, and, after a fashion, kicked a few tires on the local community, deemed it non-existent, and went about trying to find the likeminded, self-starting folks we would need to build Orlando into something unbelievably awesome.
Getting started was slow, but I didn't give up, and I soon realized there were dozens of independent, autonomous, "scenes", but very little to join them outside of a few key Connectors and the local Weekly paper.
I decided to emulate one of the most successful and engaging events I had seen - but wait, I had nothing, knew nobody, and had no reputation. No success to measure against. How does one go about causing an explosion with sparks alone?
One stick of dynamite at a time. You're going to drop a few on the way to the mine shaft (did I mention you have to dig the mineshaft too, and you can't be in two places at once, and you have to teach yourself everything, and try to maintain your regular work, family and social lives the entire time?
We've now had our third (fourth) BarCamp in Orlando, and it's clear that our tech/creative scene has matured. No hand-holding, no rule-setting, just a well-oiled machine rolling down the tracks we've laid over the last 3 years. It's a great feeling. It doesn't happen without lots of hard work and effort, but when we get rolling, it feels pretty darn good.
What's the next step? If you ask me, it will be connecting our autonomous scene with all the others - locally, state-wide, and internationally. Some inroads have been made, but more formal connections can be built, and those can only be solidified with collaboration (in my mind).
We've all got wonderful communities (where we belong, and people listen to us). Let's bring them in, and tell them how much we admire them, because they're good at what they do. Then let's create something together - a film, an event, a manifesto, or let's share our knowledge. We're comfortable doing this among our own kind. It's time to leave the nest.
We have a happy hour coming up tonight. Let's make some plans.